22:09 GMT21 January 2021
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    Donald Trump's partial withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan has prompted Beijing and Islamabad to shift their focus to "new changes" in the region, political analysts told Sputnik. The experts explained how the US' pull-out may affect the balance of power in Central Asia.

    "The situation in Afghanistan is far from stable as the rule of law has not yet been restored. Trump wants to get rid of some international obligations in the interests of the United States, hence his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan," Ji Kaiyuan, director of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the Southwest University of China, told Sputnik.

    The scholar underscored that, under these circumstances, Beijing will continue to support the process of political reconciliation in Afghanistan.

    According to Ji, China will closely cooperate with Afghanistan's neighbours due to the construction of an economic corridor through Pakistan within the framework of the mammoth Belt and Road initiative.

    "China will maximally participate in the economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, strengthen humanitarian exchanges, taking on the responsibilities of a major power. Afghanistan is dubbed the 'graveyard of empires' — Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the US. Bearing in mind these lessons, China will continue to show friendly feelings to the Afghan people, and support all segments of the Afghan society, so that they will be able to reach a consensus based on state interests," the Chinese scholar emphasised.

    On 20 December two defence officials told The New York Times that Donald Trump had ordered the military to start withdrawing 7,000 troops from Afghanistan in the coming months, signalling "an abrupt shift in the 17-year-old war". The media outlet reported that Afghan officials had not been briefed on the plan.

    Currently, the US has a 14,000-strong military contingent deployed in Afghanistan, in addition to 8,000 NATO and allied troops.

    The decision to partially withdraw American troops from the country can change the balance of power in Afghanistan, political analyst Stanislav Tarasov said. According to him, this may create new challenges for China, whose influence on Afghan affairs recently increased.

    "When the Americans say that they are pulling out of Afghanistan, they give the impression of a wounded animal," Tarasov said. "They leave traces of blood behind them, but this does not mean that fertile wheat will rise on this blood. Radical elements can strengthen there, and it is quite possible for members of the Islamic State* [Daesh*] terrorist group to move to Afghanistan after being defeated in Syria and Iraq".

    The political analyst warned that the Taliban's* influence and clout is likely to increase: "They maintain control over larger part of the country," he said, adding that one should not rule out conflicts between the Taliban and Daesh.

    "How will China and Pakistan act in this situation? There are no definite answers yet. To this end, Beijing and Islamabad are conducting consultations and jointly assessing the situation," he noted.

    It appears that the Americans are going to surrender Kabul to the Taliban, Tarasov suggested. He did not rule out the possibility of the Americans attempting to create a "hybrid" government comprised of representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban.

    "It's not at all necessary that it will be loyal to Pakistan," the Russian political analyst opined. "And it's far from a given that in this situation the Chinese influence in Afghanistan will grow."

    At the same time, he believes that Beijing and Islamabad may intensify contacts with the Taliban in order to clarify the situation and ensure their interests under a possible new leader of Afghanistan.

    China and Pakistan discussed the situation following reports of the Trump administration considering the possibility of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. On 25 December, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmud Qureshi held talks in Beijing on "new changes" to the situation in Afghanistan.

    Having visited Tehran and Kabul, the Pakistani minister then arrived in Beijing and completed his overseas mission with a trip to Moscow on 26 December.

    *Daesh (ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State) and the Taliban are terrorist groups banned in Russia.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speakers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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